Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Jim Darden Field 11th and Maple St Golden, CO 80401
Year Opened: 1937
What is an Oredigger? Based on what I can tell from the Colorado School of Mines logo, an Oredigger is a burro with a stick of dynamite in its mouth, and a backpack and shovel strapped on its back. It is the team name of all athletic sports of the Colorado School of Mines.
Started in 1874, the Colorado School of Mines (known as the Mines) initial academic programs were focused on gold and silver and the analysis of those minerals/ores. Hence the name Oredigger, I presume.
The Mines began playing in the Division II RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) in 1906. The RMAC consists of 10 educational institutions in Colorado, two in New Mexico, one in South Dakota and one in Nebraska.
Originally known as CSM Baseball Field, the field was built in 1937 as part of PWA (Public Works Administration) after the Great Depression. The seating is built into the hillside behind home plate. Significant renovations occurred in 2007, after which the ballpark was renamed Jim Darden Field honoring the Mines longtime baseball coach. It is part of the Colorado School of Mines Clear Creek Athletics Complex.
The 2007 renovations incorporated new lights, a new scoreboard, dugouts, new bullpens, batting tunnels, foul poles, perimeter fencing, a backstop, an irrigation and drainage system and restored flagstone seating. A new concessions/bathroom building was added in the summer of 2015.
Jim Darden Field sits just below the Mines “M” mountain monogram and has a beautiful view of Golden and the Coors brewery in the background.
It is said Satchel Paige once pitched here (although not as an Oredigger).
Food & Beverage 2
Jim Darden Field provides one concession stand with minimal food options, but enough to sustain a fan for a two hour or so ball game (even a two, seven-inning doubleheader).
The concession stand, called “The Ore Cart,” is at the entrance area beyond the right field line. It offers three hot items, several snacks and beverages, and a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream treat.
Hot items are 6″ hot dogs ($4), bratwurst ($5), and nachos w/cheese ($4). Snacks include peanuts or corn nuts, pretzels w/cheese, chips, candy, and popcorn and range from $2 to $4.50. Drinks on offer are coffee/hot chocolate for those cooler Colorado winter/spring days, Powerade, Coca-Cola in the bottle, and Genius juice water. Prices range from $2.50 to $3.50.
No alcoholic beverages are sold at any Oredigger game. It appears outside food and drinks can be brought in.
While there’s not a slew of selections, there’s enough for a baseball game and the prices are reasonable.
A merchandise table/stand is not available at an Oredigger baseball game.
If you like the ping of the ball on the bat and watching the game of baseball, a Mines game is a perfect afternoon sporting event when weather cooperates in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Golden, Colorado.
The pregame music is a bit too loud for easy conversation, but it is broadcast more for the player warmups and batting practice. During the game, walkup music is played for home team players only and it is not intrusive. Between innings, plenty of country music is played, however there is a decent variety of top pop songs inserted into the mix.
Bullpens are outside the fences beyond the dugouts. The symmetrical dimensions of the field (real grass and dirt in all areas) are 330′ L – 409′ C – 330′ R.
A net is in the way of all seats unless sitting on rocks down first baseline (sitting on the rocks doesn’t look too comfortable; some fans bring chairs to sit on or near the rocks). The main seating area is built into the hill behind the home plate. It has updated slate and brick steps but no handrails to assist folks with traversing up and down the steps. A few picnic tables are provided in an area just behind the infield net and before the lower hill seating area begins.
It’s a delight to see real grass and real dirt at this college ball field. As with many college venues, expect to see the ball players and coaches grooming the field before the game. Within the past few seasons, a blue Mines halo has been painted around home plate adding a little bit of the home team colors: blue and white.
The scoreboard provides the basics: batter number, ball, strike, hit / error, and runs per inning. It is a little hard to read during an early afternoon game as it faces the sun. It gets clearer as the afternoon progresses.
The Coors Brewery can easily be seen in the distance beyond right field. When entering the sports complex, a picturesque view of the “M” insignia in the mountain behind the ball field is in sight.
Jim Darden Field is between the softball field and football field and next to the soccer field.
Colorado School of Mines is located in the beautiful downtown city of Golden, Colorado (about 15 miles west of Denver). Plenty of historic sites, restaurants and pubs, and outdoor activities are just steps away.
For a bit of history, check out the Astor House, Clear Creek History Park, or the Golden History Center.
For the outdoor enthusiast, the Clear Creek trail system runs through Golden and is just beyond the parking lot of Jim Darden Field. Kayaking, tubing, sunbathing, running, cycling, and even gold panning are just a few of the activities available along the waterway.
A free Coors Brewery tour is worth a visit as it also provides a quick bus trip around historic Golden, as well as the brewery tour and free beer sampling. Golden also boasts four craft breweries with Golden City Brewery just two blocks from the ball field.
Woody’s Pizza is the place to go for eats with an all you can eat pizza, soup, and salad bar menu for $12. Other places worth checking out are Buffalo Rose Saloon, Old Capitol Grill (the former Capitol Building), and the Golden Diner (good for breakfast or lunch).
If staying downtown, the Golden Hotel near Coors (four blocks from the field) and Table Mountain Inn (about five blocks from the field) are non-franchised hotels in Golden that may be worth checking out. For more popularly known chains, several are off of US 6 including a Hampton Inn and a Holiday Inn Express about 3 1/2 miles from the field and downtown.
The most vocal fans are the players; not the ones in the stands. The fans are mostly the family and friends variety with plenty of parents out watching their sons on the field. A respectful number of visiting teams’ fans are in attendance as a handful of the RMAC schools are within an hour or so drive.
No distinct student section is found though several fellow Mine athletes attend the games which is nice to see.
Getting to the ballpark is relatively easy as it is just a mile off Interstate 70 and C-470, and off of US 6. Free parking is found in a lot on the corner of 11th St and Maple St.
A short walk from the parking lot behind the outfield brings fans to the entrance (which is a folding table manned by students). The gravel walkway from that table down the first base side towards the seating doesn’t look too stable, but quite a few fans attend games with walkers or strollers so it must be steady enough.
The attendants at the entrance table are pretty clueless about the stadium and its history. Maybe a fact sheet including stadium history and other information would be helpful for those students manning the entrance. However, they do know where to direct a visiting fan for food, drinks, and brews.
No pets are allowed – that point was made clear.
Although the Denver light rail system has the W line that goes to Golden, the station is not very near the Colorado School of Mines. One can take the W line from the Auraria train station (the station where Metro State is located) to Jeffco Government Center station in Golden. After getting off the light rail in Golden, the number 16 bus makes numerous stops and can take up to an hour before arriving at the Colorado School of Mines. It’s a two mile hike to hoof it from the light rail station to the school so that might be a better option if using public transportation.
For security and safety purposes, the entire sporting complex at Mines is locked and closed when none of the sports have matches. So if only a look-see is desired, check the Orediggers team schedules first to make sure the complex is open during your visit.
Return on Investment 3
Ticket prices run $10 (adult); $5 (child, senior 65+, college students), and free for Colorado School of Mines students. Concession prices are fair, and parking is free. If there’s a doubleheader (there are several of those throughout the season), a fan gets to watch two games for the price of one.
If watching the game without the frills and antics found in professional parks these days is your preference, the few dollars spent is worth an afternoon/evening out.
Printed game day rosters are available when purchasing a ticket; good for those who keep score or want to keep tabs on the players on the teams.
Doubleheaders – two games for the price of one; go to the second game, no one is at the ticket table (in fact the table is folded up and put away) after the end of the first game.
There’s something to be said about watching a game at a field built in 1937. The PWA-installed flagstone seating was restored in 2007, so I’m not quite sure how original it is now.
With more and more college ballparks using artificial grass and dirt, real grass and dirt are nice to observe on Jim Darden Field.
Set in a historic, outdoorsy, lively neighborhood, it is worth checking out the ballpark and complex on a warmer Colorado winter/spring day from February to early May. Then spend some time visiting Golden and experience all it has to offer.